"Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” These are not the words of President Donald Trump. They are the words of Thomas Jefferson, who championed freedom of the press but complained of the “malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them.” Little has changed, except the technology used to propagate what President Trump has correctly called “fake news.” The leftwing media’s blame game surrounding the spate of bomb threats against prominent Democrats and other critics of President Trump is only the latest example.
President Trump vowed to commit all available federal law enforcement resources to apprehend whomever was responsible for sending at least 13 improvised explosive devices to political, media and celebrity opponents of the president. He also called for unity. “In these times, we have to unify, we have to come together, and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America,” President Trump said. Within 48 hours of the president’s pronouncement, Federal authorities arrested Cesar Sayoc of Florida, aged 56, in connection with the bomb threats. Following the arrest of Cesar Sayoc on Friday, President Trump again sought to rise above partisan divisions. He said at a meeting of the Young Black Leadership Summit that the bombs were “terrorizing acts” that “have no place in our country.” He added, “We must never allow political violence to take root in America. I’ve committed to do everything in my power as president to stop it, and to stop it now.”
In sum, President Trump led his administration in acting forcefully and effectively to apprehend Sayoc. He showed through action, not just statements, that it made no difference whether Sayoc’s targets were prominent Democrats and other critics of the president, as far as his law and order administration was concerned. Nevertheless, the leftwing media have chosen to downplay the Trump administration’s success in apprehending the alleged perpetrator in record time. They have accused the president of insincerity in calling for unity against political violence, no matter who is the target. The leftwing media continue to pollute the national conversation prior to the midterm elections with reckless insinuations that President Trump is complicit in the alleged criminal acts of one deranged supporter by supposedly inciting his supporters to commit violent acts. When President Trump pushes back against such false reporting and commentary, the leftwing media cry foul. Indeed, they whined when President Trump tweeted his objection to being blamed by CNN and other outlets “for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing.” How dare the president of the United States defend himself against the sanctimonious press?
Cesar Sayoc was apparently a loner. He lived in his van, after being kicked out of his parents’ home. He filed for bankruptcy in 2012. “Mr. Sayoc has a lengthy criminal history in Florida,” the New York Times reported, “dating back to 1991 that includes felony theft, drug and fraud charges, as well as being accused of threatening to use a bomb, public records show.” The latter incident occurred in 2002, when Sayoc threatened to bomb the Florida Power and Light Company, warning that "it would be worse than September 11th." Sayok’s former lawyer was quoted as saying that for years Sayoc has shown "a lack of comprehension of reality."
In other words, Sayoc is evidently a troubled individual who did not need President Trump’s political rhetoric to continue his long-established pattern of aberrant, criminal behavior. President Trump pointed out a double standard to reporters Friday afternoon on his way to a political rally in North Carolina. Why should President Trump be blamed for the illegal acts of one disturbed supporter when Senator Bernie Sanders was not blamed for the action of one of his disturbed supporters, who nearly turned a GOP baseball field last year into a killing field, seriously injuring Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana? The leftwing media have no answer to this obvious question. To the contrary, the media have salivated as the images of the suspect’s van loaded with pro-Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton stickers, and photos of the suspect holding a “CNN sucks” banner at a Trump rally in Florida, began to circulate. They are using this one troubled individual, with a long arrest record going back decades, as their caricature of the typical pro-Trump “deplorable” egged on by their idol to commit violent acts.
Indeed, instead of embracing the president’s call for national unity, CNN and its cohorts in the Trump-hating press have been in attack mode against the president from the outset of the bomb scares. CNN president Jeff Zucker’s first public statement after one bomb package forced an evacuation of the Time Warner building in New York City, where CNN’s New York newsroom is located, was to castigate President Trump and his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Zucker claimed there was a “total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media." He said the president and his press secretary “have shown no comprehension” that “their words matter.”
Yes, Mr. Zucker, words do matter. And words are precisely the currency which the media has used time and again to irresponsibility attack President Trump and his supporters in the vilest terms, while giving the left a free pass.
CNN commentator Angela Rye, for example, said last Thursday that the left bears no responsibility for heated rhetoric that could lead to violence. "This type of rhetoric is not coming from all sides," she said. Only the rightwing, led by President Trump, bears responsibility, according to Ms. Rye. That is a perfect example of fake news. The truth is that the left has gone beyond the incendiary rhetoric of Democrat leaders such as Representative Maxine Waters, Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as of actor Robert De Niro, to conduct actual acts of mob intimidation and violence. Yet CNN commentators are their shields, making excuses for their actions. Don Lemon said that the thugs who got into Senator Ted Cruz’s face and literally chased the Senator and his wife out of a restaurant were simply “exercising their constitutional right.” Brooke Baldwin objected strongly when one of her guests dared to use what she called the “m-word.” That is more than just fake news. It is an Orwellian perversion of our language to fit an ideological agenda.
Unlike Rye, Lemon and Baldwin, CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is supposed to be an impartial reporter. He is anything but. Early last week, Acosta blasted President Trump as “dishonest” and “deceptive” at a CNN-sponsored event. “Many of us didn’t expect Trump to win and it sort of turned the beat upside down,” Acosta complained, as if that justified the constant stream of Trump-hating rhetoric on CNN, MSNBC and other left-leaning outlets. “For the president of the United States to go around calling us ‘fake news’ and the ‘enemy of the people,’ to me, I don’t understand why this is even a debate or a discussion for journalists. It’s just wrong.” Perhaps Acosta and his colleagues need to look in the mirror.
Acosta also complained at a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida that he attended earlier this year about “a chorus of boos and other chants from this Trump crowd here — saying things like ‘CNN sucks,’ ‘go home’ and ‘fake news.’” Trump rallies are like sporting events. If Acosta ever attended a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game, he would have heard frequent chants of “Yankees suck” in Fenway Park and “Red Sox suck” in Yankee Stadium. Acosta whined about such harmless chanting at a Trump rally, while apparently not disturbed at all about the left’s mob violence including physical attacks on Trump supporters.
The mainstream media showed its anti-Trump bias overwhelmingly not only during the 2016 presidential campaign but right from the get-go of his administration. A report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, analyzing the news coverage of President Trump’s first 100 days in office in the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets, underscored the unfair news coverage that President Trump has been complaining about ever since he took office. The study concluded that “Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.” The study noted that “CNN and NBC’s coverage was the most unrelenting—negative stories about Trump outpaced positive ones by 13-to-1 on the two networks.” The percentage of statements about President Trump’s fitness for office on CNN and NBC were 82 percent and 80 percent negative respectively.
The level of anti-Trump media venom has only gotten far worse, with commentators regularly referring to the president and his supporters as Nazis and racists. Will the media take responsibility for the inflammatory rhetoric it regularly uses that might have helped instigate violence by Antifa, a knife attack against a Republican running for Congress in California, and physical attacks on two GOP state representative candidates in Minnesota? Of course not.
The media’s refrain is that the president of the United States should be held to a higher standard than anyone else, including themselves. The president does need to set a positive example, to be sure. However, as none other than Benjamin Franklin once noted in his critique of the press, the media has a special responsibility all of its own. Unlike our elected officials and the courts, he wrote, the press faces very little external restraints or checks and balances. The press “may receive and promulgate accusations of all kinds, against all persons and characters among the citizens of the State… and may judge, sentence, and condemn to infamy, not only private individuals, but public bodies, &c., with or without inquiry or hearing,” Benjamin Franklin wrote. While defending “the Liberty of the Press,” he warned how easily the press can turn on its critics by tearing one’s “private character to flitters” and marking one “out for the odium of the public, as an enemy to the liberty of the press.”
President Trump has every right and justification to call the press to account for contributing to today’s ugly political environment and for unfairly blaming him for the alleged criminal acts of one deranged supporter.